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15 Ways You Can Be a Better Speaker
15 Ways You Can Be a Better Speaker

15 Ways You Can Be a Better Speaker

In the past three years, I have spoken with a number of audiences. And I have found the experience to not only be rewarding but surprisingly enjoyable. For most of my career, I did not ‘avoid’ speaking opportunities, but neither did I actively pursue them.

Now, I look for opportunities to speak.

Following is a short list of lessons learned that have helped me be a better speaker.  Perhaps they will help you, too.

15 Ways to be a Better Speaker

  • It’s about the audience, not you!
    Focusing on why they spent money to hear you speak, what they want from you, what you can do for them, lowers your anxiety. Why? Because it’s no longer about you.
  • Study the topic of Presenting
    Read their books and follow Garr Reynolds, PresentationZen; Nancy Duarte,
  • Avoid Crutches
    Remember, PowerPoint/KeyNote are there to support you. Not, the other way around.
  • Do NOT memorize your presentation verbatim.
    Make your key points through selected short stories whenever possible.
  • One. Idea. Per. Slide. Period.
  • Avoid Bullet Points
    Whenever possible (see previous item).
  • No one really cares how many slides you have. (See previous, previous point)
    Unless your presentation sucks.
  • Only use graphics that make your point.
    Avoid gratuitous gimmicks like 3-D charts, fonts, and the like.
  • Using graphic imagery to support your point.
    Full-bleed pictures (covers entire slide) with minimal text (<5 words?) can be very powerful.
  • Simple is best.
    Simple does not mean preparation will not be complex though.
  • Pay attention to your audience.
    Watch their faces. Watch body language. Adjust your delivery if necessary.
  • Be human. Smile. Relax.
    People want to relate to you. Don’t be a stiff ‘corporate’ persona. Leave the can of non-stick Teflon spray at home.
  • Your First 30 seconds are important!
    Don’t waste them by blathering through a self-intro; they likely know something about who/what you are already.
  • Get out from behind the podium.
    Your audience wants to see you, to relate to you (previous point). Don’t hide from them.
  • Never stop learning.
    Practice. Study. Study the topic some more.
  • Bonus item: Nobody is perfect.
    Your audience does not expect you are either.

I really do enjoy studying, and doing, presentation.  If you want some more quick insights, you can read some of my other related articles:

Audience Engagement
What I’ve Read Lately: The Naked Presenter
What I’ve Read Lately: Resonate

These are just 15 of the many little things I’ve learned over the past few years. Hopefully they’re not all new to you. Perhaps some will be new take-aways. The list could on much longer, but I’d really like to give you the opportunity to share your experiences.

What have you learned about presenting that you’d like to share?


  1. JT

    Delivering this message to a group of software product managers, someone asked me, basically, ‘Why this topic, this group?’

    I was mildly surprised. As software product managers, a good chunk of our time is spent presenting. Internally, so we can pitch our vision and get everyone on board. Externally, to trade groups, customers, and other interested parties.

    SPMs are as ripe a group for improving their presentation skills as any. I’ve seen way too many presentations that buried their audiences in fancy, multi-fonted, eye-grabbing charts, that did little more than kill audience interest by the half-way point.

    “Documentation” can be put into a hand-out and passed around. Sometimes a slide deck is just that, a slide deck so a group can review detail. Those slide decks should not be the same ones you use to sell you dream though.

  2. Great list! Very good reminders in making a successful presentation. Speaking is the best form of networking. It really gets you out in front. If one does have the common fear of public speaking, they can go to and find a local toastmaster club. There you will learn to eliminate your fears.

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